Venice is a bucket list destination. Sure, it’s crowded with tourists and in the summer, very hot, but none of that takes away from thr magic of catching a glimpse of the glimmering Grand Canal or getting lost while trying to navigate the countless little alleyways that make up the city. After seeing Venice in so many photos and films, the real thing was everything I imagined it to be, and I instantly became enthralled by its history, romance, and mystique.
If you’re thinking of planning a trip to Venice, my first suggestion would be to take into consideration the amount of time that you want to spend there. I would personally recommend three days in order to fully embrace all that the city has to offer without getting bored. This will allow you to explore Venice, as well as have enough time to take a day trip to Murano or Burano Island. Depending on the pace you like to take when on vacation, you may want to add a day; however, after a while the endless throngs of people start to wear on you, and for me, three days was ideal.
From sipping a Bellini on the Grand Canal to touring the colorful, charming island of Burano, I’ve rounded up a list of five must-do’s when in Venice. While most Venice guide books will recommend a gondola ride and taking a tour of Saint Mark’s Basilica as staple activities, when I visit a new city, I prefer to explore it on my own and stay away from the obvious tourist attractions. Based on your own touring style, my suggestions for Venice could stand on their own OR be a great supplement to your pre-planned itinerary.
The A-Lyst for What to Do in Venice, Italy
Sip a Bellini on the Grand Canal
Did you know that the Bellini was invented in Venice? As one of my favorite cocktails, I was surprised to learn this fun fact during our visit! The original Bellini was made at Harry’s Bar, which as you can imagine, is tourist central, so I was determined to find a less crowded place to enjoy this refreshing peach and prosecco drink. The outdoor Riva Lounge at The Gritti Palace offers an unbelievable view of the Grand Canal with the striking Santa Maria della Salute in the background, and it’s the perfect spot to imbibe an afternoon cocktail on a gorgeous day. We scored a table closest to the Grand Canal and we were in awe of the view. As we enjoyed our drinks, we watched gondola after gondola pass us by; some of the gondoliers even serenaded their passengers! If you’re looking for a relaxing, picturesque spot to enjoy Venice’s famous Bellini on the Grand Canal, this it it.
Buy Murano Glass
I love the aesthetic of Murano glass, but during our short trip to Venice, I didn’t want to spend a day touring the glass factory on Murano Island just to get a piece of jewelry. After much research, I located a wonderful little jeweler set back behind the Rialto Bridge. Travel guru Rick Steves recommended Rialto 79 as a place to find authentic Murano glass and it did not disappoint. The shop boasted beautiful Murano glass necklaces, earrings, and bracelets in every color. I ended up purchasing several bracelets, and the staff was kind enough to adjust the size of the ones I bought for myself to fit my wrist. Sadly, much of the glass that is advertised as “Murano” is not from Murano, so it’s important to do your research before making a purchase.
Visit Burano Island
Only a 40 minute boat ride from St. Mark’s Square (just make sure you get on the correct vaporetto…!), visiting the colorful island of Burano was a highlight of our trip. Burano is really known for two things; its beautiful, brightly colored homes and gorgeous lace. In fact, the women on Burano began making lace pieces with needles all the way back in the in the 16th century! My favorite part of our visit to Burano was strolling alongside the canals and enjoying the lovely rainbow-colored homes. From bright blues to vibrant pinks, each house was more striking than the next! Apparently, the town has a system to the colors and if homeowners wish to paint their home, they must put in a request with the government who will then let them know what hues are permitted. I’d suggest taking a trip to Burano for the afternoon, enjoying a delicious seafood lunch, and exploring the homes and lace shops before heading back to Venice.
Enjoy Live Music in Saint Mark’s Square
The expansive Saint Mark’s Square comes alive at night. Yes, it’s packed with people during the day, but in the evening, the crowds have dissipated and a new kind of energy is born. There are several cafes that host live bands in front of their outdoor patios and the melody of their songs can be heard throughout the piazza. It’s pretty spectacular! While you can grab a table and enjoy a meal or dessert at these eateries (…and pay an extra cover charge because they have a live band!), my recommendation is to enjoy it from the Square itself. You won’t have a seat, but you’ll still be able to listen to the music without the extra cost. Each night we were in Venice, we would grab gelato (our favorite spots for gelato were Suso and Venchi), and then with our gelato in hand, walk over to St. Mark’s Square to enjoy the band. This is the perfect way to end a special evening!
Take a Private Water Taxi Ride to Giudecca
Nothing will make you feel more like James Bond then jumping on your own private water taxi and gliding on the glistening waters across Venice. Equally expensive as it is fun, we felt that it was worth the splurge to enjoy the waterways in a powerboat, complete with our own driver. Giudecca is an island that sits right across from the central islands of Venice and it offers a great view of the city from afar. Our hotel, The Hilton Molino Stucky, was located on Giudecca and we loved how much quieter it was than the Saint Mark’s Square area. As a side note, I highly recommend a sunset cocktail on the Skyline Rooftop Bar of the Hilton, as it provides stunning views! If you take a water taxi to Giudecca, I recommend exploring the main promenade of the island, which is along the water, as well as venturing over to the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, as its grounds are beautiful. Honestly, half the fun is the ride over, so embrace every moment as it goes by fast!
Scarf: J.Crew Silk Square Scarf (similar here)
Bag: French market tote (purchased in France; similar here)
The A-Lyst is a Boston-based lifestyle blog curating the very best of style, beauty, food, and travel.